FRANLKIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s been four years since Brandy Blanton lost her first granddaughter, Elliot.
“It was very quick,” Blanton recalled. “She got a fever virus on a Thursday and passed away that Friday afternoon.”
Elliot was born with a terminal form of dwarfism called rhizomelic chondrodysplasia punctata, but despite her diagnosis, Elliot found a way to light up a room.
“She smiled and laughed and loved loud music and flashing lights,” said Blanton.
For a girl like that, is there any better way to honor her life than with a park?
“This is what her dream world would be, for all children to play,” said Torrey Barnhill, the executive director of Friends of Franklin Parks. “This is a playground where she would play and love to be a part of.”
According to Barnhill, community members worked for more than a decade to build an inclusive playground.
After Franklin officials announced they were building the 180-acre Southeastern Municipal Complex off Carothers Parkway, they also decided to add the city’s first inclusive playground, naming it Ellie G’s Dream World.
“This playground is actually for everybody to play together,” said Barnhill.
This playground will cost approximately $3 million to build. The City of Franklin is reportedly putting up $1.5 million while Barnhill’s organization will handle fundraising for the other half.
“We have large donors,” she said. “We have someone giving [$]500, [$]1,000. They just want to be a part of this playground, including children, and that’s been really special, as well.”
While Elliot won’t be here to see her park, her grandmother is excited for all the children who will soon get a chance to play there.
“I’m sure it will be tearful,” Blanton said. “I’m sure there will be visuals that are hard to look at, but I think with anything, you have to look backwards and realize the beauty of the gift and not the sadness that always comes with the loss.”
So far, Friends of Franklin Parks has raised over $800,000. If you’re interested in making a donation, follow this link.
Barnhill said organizers are hoping to break ground on the playground next year.